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Bannock County committed to preserving groundwater

by | Apr 5, 2022 | Highlights

Bannock County Planning & Development recently completed a survey to gauge how residents feel about growth in our area. They received more than 700 responses from residents, who all offered their own unique insights and opinions.

Enthusiasm for growth and development varied, but responses were consistent in at least one thing: it is important to preserve ground water quality.

In honor of this year’s Earth Week theme, ‘Invest In Our Planet,’ we’d like to highlight some of the ways Bannock County government is invested in the health of our area’s ground water.

Remedying problems from the past

During the 20th Century, Bannock County residents disposed of their hazardous chemicals in an unlined area of the Fort Hall Mine Landfill, known as Cell 1. Experts discovered in 1991 that this practice resulted in an uncontrolled release of chemicals to the environment, contaminating the groundwater.

The County closed Cell 1 and began investigating ways to remedy the contamination. In 2002, the County installed a groundwater remediation system to remove chemicals of potential concern, but ongoing studies have shown that has not prevented chemicals from impacting the Lower Portneuf Valley Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to most Bannock County residents.

In order to mitigate the problem, the Bannock County Public Works department partnered with CDM Smith, a private engineering and construction firm, to monitor the contamination and provide recommendations for actions the County can take.

Since 2018 alone, Bannock County has committed $10 million to this ongoing study and remediation project. With the help of CDM Smith, crews have begun monitoring dozens of offsite wells for contamination, investigating to determine which ground layers contaminants are moving through, and monitoring the protective cover of Cell 1.

According to CDM Smith’s 2020 risk assessment, seven domestic wells may be unsafe to drink, and the property owners and tenants affected were notified. However, for the majority of people in the surrounding area, private well water is safe to drink.

Learn more about the health risks and what prevention and remediation efforts the County has taken to protect residents’ drinking water by clicking here.

Facilitating potential partnerships

The 83245 zip code, which encompasses the City of Inkom, is the fastest growing zip code in Bannock County, according to data from the 2020 Census. Bannock County recently approved more than 100 new building sites in the immediate area outside of Inkom. Each of the new homes will require installing an individual well and septic system, which has the potential to contaminate surrounding groundwater.

To avoid future groundwater contamination and support smart growth, Bannock County, Pocatello, and Inkom elected officials are considering the idea of extending Pocatello’s existing water and sewer infrastructure to Inkom.

Officials agreed that further studies should be conducted in order to determine capacity, costs, location, and feasibility of the project.

To pay for the study, Inkom officials have applied for the Source Water Protection Grant from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

Bannock County elected officials are facilitating discussions and bringing the involved parties together to find solutions. Learn more about the proposed project by clicking here.

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